I can't speak to flight schools in the Bay area, but in regards to your other two questions:
|Quoting Meristem (Thread starter):|
1.5 For CFI/CFIIs out there: Is the CFI going to chuck me out of the plane at 1000ft if I pepper him/her with questions regarding the inner workings of the A/C?
On the ground, most instructors like talking airplanes. Especially if you are on the clock
As long as there isn't another student waiting, they will do what they can to accommodate your questions.
Many will get annoyed if you ask them questions at the wrong time. In and around San Fran the airspace is congested, so depending on where you are flying from, traffic density, etc, the instructor may want to concentrate on the radio, traffic scan, and other things--not discuss technical items. Obviously, when the instructor is trying to teach, you should focus on what they are teaching--don't start asking about the compression ratio of the engine when s/he's instructing on steep turns.
2. Is there any advantage on doing ground school first (e.g. Embry Riddle's online program
) and then going to a flight school?
I'd speak to your instructor first. Some prefer to combine ground and air so that flight lessons reinforce ground lessons and vice versa, others prefer to give you as much preparation as possible before your first flight in order help focus on the actual flying while in the airplane.
I subscribe to a plan somewhat in between--I like to see students get a good 50% or more of their groundwork done before starting regular lessons, or as quickly as possible after starting. The rest can be structured into a combination of air and ground instruction.
One thing I'd mention--the right CFI is VERY important. When looking for a CFI, find someone who intends to be around for all of your training. Many pilots build flight time as instructors before moving the the regional airlines or other flying jobs--experienced instructors that instruct because they enjoy it are generally preferable. That is not to say an airline bound CFI won't give you exceptional instruction, but it is something to consider.
And remember, if things don't click between you and the instructor, it isn't any one persons fault. It happens all the time, and it is hardly uncommon for a student to request a change in instructor.